Exposure of cellulose nanocrystals on human lung cells at the air-liquid-interface

November 11, 2020

Michelle Hesler1, Annika Kittel1, Stephan Dähnhardt-Pfeiffer2, Christoph Metzger3, Christine Herrmann3, Marielle Fink4, Heiko Briesen3, Tobias Krebs4, Hagen von Briesen1, Sylvia Wagner1, Yvonne Kohl1
1 Fraunhofer Institut für Biomedizinische Technik IBMT, Sulzbach, Germany, 
2 Microscopy Services Dähnhardt GmbH, Flintbek, Germany, 
3 Lehrstuhl für Systemverfahrenstechnik, Technische Universität München, Freising, Germany, 
4 VITROCELL Systems GmbH, Fabrik Sonntag 3, Waldkirch, Germany


– In vitro aerosol exposure studies were performed with an air-liquid-interface (ALI)-lung model consisting of A549 (epithelial cells), EA.hy926 (endothelial cells) and THP-1 (macrophages) cells.
– Two different types of CNC extracted from α-cellulose (CNC-W) and pulp (CNC-G) by sulfuric acid hydrolysis were studied in a concentration of 100 μg/ml applied as aerosols with VITROCELL® Cloud system.
– Single and multiple exposure with and without a 24 h regeneration phase were compared.
– Endpoints of the study: Cell viability, ROS generation and DNA damage.


Cellulose is the most abundant organic substance on earth. Cellulose nanocrystals (CNC) are extracted from renewable resources such as wood or cotton and therefore are a raw material in the field of bioeconomy. Its unique physical and structural properties feature low-cost, renewable and biodegradable products. However, the high aspect ratio and fibrous structures of nanocellulose also raise health concerns, especially for workers in manufacturing industries (e.g. CNC inhalation). Therefore, reliable in vitro models that mimic the scenario of inhalation are needed to evaluate possibly harmful effects of CNCs to the lung.

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